“This is going to be the greatest snowstorm Big Bear Lake has seen in a century!” These are the words I have been hearing shouted from the snowy rooftops all over our ski resort town for the last week. I personally wrote them the way Donald Trump would proclaim a big ass snow storm rolling into the Big Bear Lake area. The way our local media forecasters and the social media trolls are going on about this snowstorm, you would expect us to get the snowstorm of the century!
It was late January 2021 and a global pandemic had us Big Bearians stranded in our homes. Well, at least the smart ones who were staying at home and not going out and about; Business as usual. We were trying our best to stay away from grandma, not take the entire family to Costco to buy one package of toilet paper and basically make smart decisions in unprecedented times.
By late January 2021 here in southern California, we had been furloughed from our jobs, resisted the urge to visit friends and family and basically spent way too much time with our pets. We had survived the murder hornets and also sleepy-eyed Joe being elected. We hadn’t been to the Whole Foods two hours away in over a month and we were bored. (And also running out of organic grass-fed cheeses)
And then Big Bear Lake had an atmospheric river of moisture bearing down on her already snowy peaks. The villagers were freaking out on the local Facebook groups. The grocery shelves were empty. There were no pork ribs or ground hamburger to be had. I personally grabbed the last three bananas in all of Big Bear Lake. If I was going to be shoveling two or three feet of snow, I was going to also make my world-famous Gluten-Free Banana Bread damn-it!
Oh those small (snowy) communities
The gossip around Big Bear Lake was that this would be the most potent snowstorm to hit us in five years. Everyone was talking about the four feet of snow we received over multiple days in 2010. Would it be like that? Would the neighborhood streets even get plowed? Would the highways to Big Bear all be shut down? Would the power go out for days? What if we couldn’t watch FoxNews! Would 18 wheelers even be allowed up with fuel and toilet paper? These were the conversations I heard while standing in a line of locals all bundled in Carhartt jackets, coveralls, and sporting old miners beards to their chests at the local market pre-storm. The slow-moving line was twenty people deep as the storm approached our rural ski town. The hysteria was building as Thursday night approached, the winds began to howl in our tall Jeffrey Pines and the storm clouds began to build on the horizon.
Old-timers were harkening back to the March Miracle in 1991 when we received many feet of snow over a few days. I was eleven at the time and as usual, our family’s snowblower was not working. I remember shoveling for what felt like days. The roads were not plowed and when we ran out of milk and eggs my mom sent me to the nearby market. I would walk there in three feet of snow. Who could imagine that would be the biggest snowstorm to hit the Big Bear Lake area for the next twenty years?
A life under the pines
When my family left the ghetto of Norwalk (A slightly classier suburb of Los Angeles than Compton) in 1985 to move to the San Bernardino Mountain our tiny mountain town received eight feet of snow in three days our first winter in the mountains. When I was growing up in the eighties and nineties we used to get real snowstorms. If you can still drive your car and school is not canceled for a week, then it’s really not a snowstorm to get excited about. Yes, I would have to shovel for days and walk to the market in a blizzard to buy eggs but I wouldn’t change my small-town childhood for anything.
I can remember when I was a kid we would get so much snow our roads would not be plowed for days on end. One time the plow just gave up in the middle of the street and left a snow mountain in the middle of the street until spring.
My dad would be away at work in Los Angeles and he wouldn’t be able to drive home on the snowy highways for days on end. My mom would leave the baby at my grandma’s around the corner from our cabin. She would then bundle my five-year-old brother and me (I was six) into awesome eighties snow gear and we would walk a mile and a half to the market in a few feet of snow.
Social media is changing Big Bear Lake negatively
The San Bernardino Mountains during a snowstorm are a different world than the snowy mountains of the nineties. So many mountain residents are fed up with mountain life in these small towns. Our small-town way of life is being destroyed by the joys of social media. Thanks to apps like All-Trails all the most beautiful secret trails can be found with just a swipe of your smartphone. This leads to the snow pigs leaving bags of dog poo all over the forests of Big Bear Lake. Locals only secret trails are no longer secret. Just look at the disgusting human waste mess that became of Aztec Falls during the pandemic. This hidden swimming hole treasure was absolutely overrun with tourists throwing their Truly cans and cigarette butts in the creek beds.
Real-time traffic conditions are available to tell travelers about the gridlock snow play traffic on Highway 38 and Highway 330. This is why we locals here in Big Bear Lake roll our eyes when we get a foot of snow on a Thursday or a Friday. We know the roads will be congested and the tourists will be sledding or barbequing on the side of the highway. They will be throwing their trash in the forests and yes sometimes pooping in our front yards. Do they actually think Smoky the Bear comes by after them to clean up their garbage? Our forest is not Disneyland. Our local sheriffs have to deal with the most ridiculous bullshit. These headlines are straight from our local CHP dispatch.
- The local sheriff was called over last weekend because the snow pigs were lighting up a birthday cake in the middle of the highway.
- 3 people shoveling snow into the roadway to create a speed bump.
- Not to mention the one about the people sledding with their kids between cars on the snowy highway.
So when I watch the local news and they talk about “The storm of the century” I do have to roll my eyes a bit. I’ve lived in these mountains for thirty-five years. I know what a real snowstorm is. I’ve literally walked miles home in a snowstorm when my car couldn’t make it any further. That was before cell phone technology so I couldn’t even tell anyone where I was. This last week, I find myself reminiscing with our neighbors on our block. They are in their eighties now and still shoveling their driveway themselves. They built their house on our street in the early seventies when it was the only house on our street.
My neighbor next store has lived in Big Bear Lake since ’77 and can remember when Big Bear Lake only had one stoplight and the highway was one lane both ways. This could be why all the people we talk to during the pandemic are in their seventies and eighties. Because they are being safe at home, looking out for their health. Living here in these mountains for over thirty years we all know what a real winter was.
I feel like I might be one of the very few people in Big Bear Lake not in a complete panic standing in the line at Stater Brothers market. “We might get two feet of snow! Heavens! What if I can’t drive to Starbucks for an iced frappalatte when I should be safe at home trying not to catch Covid?”
Big Bear Lake is a fantastic snowy place to live, but man are some people big babies when it comes to a little snowstorm. I live for the day we actually get a snowstorm here in our ski town that we can actually be concerned about.
Good perspective as always. Social media does seem to whip everything up into a frenzy. We had the same here. We were going to get serious snow in London. Well, it didn’t happen ( yet again). But I still saw people marching by with sledges, even though we only had about an inch of snow!
Really enjoyed reading this, thank you.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Your stories took me back to the early 70’s when a big storm shut down the towns for awhile. I have very fond memories of life in Big Bear. Sad to hear what adjoining populations are doing to life there now.
It truly is. I see our neighbors putting their homes up for sale just this week as this is just not a secluded place to live anymore.
Another full time arrogant Big Bear resident snob who just doesn’t get it. The town produces nothing, manufactures nothing and it’s sole industry and employer is tourism. And you deplore it. It’s not YOUR National Forest. I lived there for 15 years. Be gracious that Monday through Friday it is blissful. And just be quiet on the weekend.
Since when is Monday through Friday blissful? Every day since last March feels like a holiday weekend here. And here I am out in the forest picking up dirty diapers and Truly cans seven days a week. I think I have the right to bitch about the way our mountain is being trashed. So you have lived here for 15 years. I’ve lived here for 35 and I actually can recall this being a pleasant place to live.
Its awsome that all that snow is going to melt and fill the lake back up which it has done for years and will make Big Bear Lake alive again. After living there for 35 years, it’s the process mother nature has done for years! Deal with it and just enjoy whatever mother nature provides?
I really enjoyed the author’s perspective and can relate to how disappointing it must be to see the negative changes brought about by greater exposure. We experienced the same disappointment with our favorite hiking/camping spots in the High Sierras. Social media has made them all the rage, no longer our quiet yet very rugged and wild private adventures. We are blessed to have a little vacation home in Big Bear and do all we can to help keep Big Bear beautiful and natural.
The sierras were just crazy this summer when we went up to visit! Hopefully, this coming summer is a bit back to normal.
My husband an I have lived in our mountains for40 yrs.Yes it is a tourist town, But it is sad that visitors don’t respect the mountain we love and we still live here after40yrs.We remember those big real snow storms in the70’s Like some role who have moved away and are still moving, if we would skidsdaddle too. Thank you for you rembrring the grand days of Big Bear Llake and our beautiful mountains.
My parents built our mountain cabin in 1947. I was a one year old. I enjoyed that cabin at least one weekend a month for all my youth. Fishing, going to the arcade, swimming at the plunge, hiking, exploring Holcomb Valley, going to the Rose Mine, catching a movie in town at the theater, sledding in the winter and waterskiing in summer. I thank Big Rear Lake for all the wonderful memories.